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Should I stay or should I go? Should I commit or should I blow?

My daughter is easily frustrated when trying new things. Like me, she often finds things easy, and expects them all to be thus. Plus, like me, she expects perfection. And, again, like me, she'll often stay in her comfort zone where she has mastered things and can perfect them.

So it's up to me, as her mother, to push her (and myself) to try, and try again. It's up to me to convince us both that it's okay to need to keep trying and work to as good as YOU can do.

I think I've succeeded a little bit better with her than with myself.

On her own, I've heard her say, "Oh well, that's okay, I tried, I'll keep trying and next time will be better."

Recently, her gymnastics coach moved her class up to the next level, with more challenges. She's outside her accomplished comfort zone now, and is being challenged. Thus she initially resisted, tremendously.

"I hate gymnastics," said the child who only last week said gymnastics was her favorite thing to do EVAH. When it came time to go to class, she said, "I don't want to go." When I pressed why, she said, "I don't feel good."

I fell for it the first time. The second time, I was suspicious. I could think of no good reason I knew, so I pressed her for her good reason. We finally got to the truth, "Coach keeps asking me to do all these thngs I CAN NOT DO!" she cried, frustrated, tears leaking out of her eyes.

We talked, and she returned to her classes, and, with practice, getting better and better at the new activities.

Last week she came home shining with accomplishment, and the weekly award for achievement, "I got an award!" she cried, full of excitement and enthusiasm, her words blurring together quickly as she rushed to tell me her success, "It's for the vault! Squat-on! I did it!"

We were all really glad we asked her to persist. And I began thinking about the entire concept of "keep at it versus cut and run."

How do you know when the right time comes to leave versus work through the tough spot?

My mother was very sensitive to me saying, "I'm unhappy" and that was all I had to say to quit. I left behind me a string of things I regret and miss. I think many times I really wanted her to tell me how I could keep doing my activity in spite of whatever the obstacle was. I think sometimes I wanted a reason---outside myself and my temporary frustration---telling me to keep at it. My prime example is the viola.

In eighth grade, I moved into school number six. My previous school was very academically-focused. My favorite activities---history club and orchestra---were respected. Both were very large groups, lead by popular and dynamic teachers. There were probably 50 or more kids in the orchestra and over 30 kids in history club. We went to competitions, had field trips, and everyone enjoyed themselves. After years of solo viola lessons, I loved finally being part of a large orchestra. When we moved, this time we moved cities, and I left behind not only my school friends, but also my town friends...I left behind an entire lifestyle. It was devastating.

My new school didn't even have a history club, and orchestra was about six kids, all of whom were very mocked and frightened. I entered school with my usual confidence, sure that I'd make friends. Only, this school had a bad feeling to it. After a couple of weeks passed and I still hadn't met a friendly person or seen a friendly face, I decided maybe this time wasn't gong to be okay. One day, as I approached my locker bank from around the corner, I heard my locker mate crying to her friend, "She's a NEW girl, and she plays one of those INSTRUMENTS. Oh my GOD what if someone thinks it's MINE? I'd just DIE. They'd think I was a LOSER."

Although I was amazed and appalled, I thought, maybe I need to alter a little to fit in. So I ditched the viola, for good. And made changes to myself I am still trying to work out. All for nothing, in the end.

I wonder what might have happened, had I stuck with the viola in some way, maybe private lessons. As an adult, looking back, I see a wealth of potential creative solutions to this incident, and I can't help but wonder about this quitting and other quittings and what might have happened had I been asked---by myself or a parent---to stick it out and work it out. Perhaps I needed help figuring out who I was, and how to be true to myself.

However, the tough thing about young people is knowing what their truth is...they are still unwritten in so many ways.

Some things seem simple, such as sticking with gymnastics, despite my daughter's worry about being able to do the next challenge. But what about the day, say five years from now, when she says she's tired of gymnastics, and wants to focus on soccer? Or what about three lessons into piano, when she says, "I don't think I like doing this." Maybe she decides she wants to work for a year before going to college. Perhaps she asks me for advice about sticking with a friendship or relationship.

I hope wisdom comes to me in each of these moments, because in all truth, I am still personally trying to find my way when it comes to 'try harder or quit while I'm ahead.'

Many people find it difficult or impossible to walk away. Sometimes I think that I've had too much practice and find it too easy. It seems that sometimes I don't show much wisdom when choosing whether to leave or stay. So I want my children to find a better way of answering, "Should I stay or should I go?"

Have you ever stuck with or quit something you regret? What's your method of determining whether to work it out or quit while you're ahead? How do you pass this along to your children?

By Julie Pippert
© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced. R.E.S.P.E.C.T that. Please. If you want to use something, write me.

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Unknown said…
I've thought about this a lot Julie. A Lot. (Is that supposed to be one word or two?) Anyway, I wasn't given a lot of opportunities as a child AND the few I did have, it was very easy for me to quit. I got bored or it was hard. Whatever the reason. The only thing I ever "stuck" with was reading like a maniac.

Now, there are also things I've never even tried because I was too afraid. I call it backwards perfectionism. If I can't do some things very well from the start, I won't do it at all. You can't fail if you don't try. (How sad it that?)

With my son, I determined that he had to stick things out better than I had. So, when he was 4 and in children's choir, I said he had to go for three weeks, then, if he didn't like it, he could quit. He stayed. With a sport, if he signed up, he had to finish it. We never made him sign up again, but he would see the season through to the end.

His personality is such that he gets interested in something new and then wants to move on. I try to balance that. I want him to learn discipline but I don't want him to keep at something that he isn't really suited for or talented in. (And I don't want to spend tons of money on something like that.)

My daughter is more likely to join and stay with things, Brownies, etc. She was in gymnastics like your daughter until her program was shut down. She was being very challenged by it at the end because she had been put on a pre-team. With practices twice a week for 2 1/2 hours at a time, she improved so much. But now, she remembers working hard and only wants to "play" at it.

I'm not sure what to do with that. The program ended so I would have to go somewhere else. She is definitely talented in gymnastics. I don't know whether to make the decision for her. She is 6 1/2. I did sign her up for a basketball league to see how she does with another sport.

I won't do anything until basketball is over... I'm throwing this back to you now. What do you think? If they have real potential in an area, should you "force" it on them. At what age is it not appropriate to make that kind of choice for your child?
Julie Pippert said…
Oh no! Balls back in my court!

Ummm...I don't know. LOL

I think I wish some things could be just fun, instead of so competitive and move to the next level. I think sometimes you do need continual challenge but sometimes it needs to be at your own pace.

MHO: There is a window of interest, a window of opportunity to begin during that interest, a window of step back and review, and finally, a small window of chance to return if you leave. It's so easy to miss any of these.

With the viola, there was a window of opportunity. I think music is an awesome skill to have, helps in so many areas. Once I left it behind, I quicly filled in the space it left and then never went back to it.

I don't like to force, but sometimes, it seems appropriate in some way. Maybe, the best thing to do is that "try it for a bit" like you said.

I don't know the age cutoff for that. I'm sure the kids will let us know LOL.

(I'm not trying to be flippant, I really don't have any wisdom here. I'm sorry! I will noodle further!)
Bea said…
Looking back, I think my mom exercised excellent judgment on when to allow me to quit and when to make me keep going.

I remember the day I quit gymnastics: I had LOVED it for two years, and then one day I just realized: I'm not the kind of person who can do this. And I was absolutely right: I am a physically cautious person and I was never going to make it past the elementary somersaults and cartwheels. So I finished out that set of lessons and never went back.

Piano, on the other hand, I had to stick with until I got my grade 8 certificate: that was the deal my parents made with me when they bought me the piano in grade two, and it took me ten years to finish out my commitment - and then I went on for one last year and got my grade 9.
Her Bad Mother said…
I desperately wanted to be a ballet dancer as a child. DESPERATELY. But I have all the grace of a wounded hippo. My mother would always pull me out when I began falling behind, and would then enroll in me in singing or piano or whatever I might have a smidgen on talent for. I don't begrudge her this - I WOULD get frustrated once things started getting beyond me. But I never did give up - I persevered as an adult and took classes until I was pregnant. I never got beyond beginner (it's the choreography that I could never follow), but I still loved it and was glad that I went back to it. Humbling, but fun.

It's the only thing that I've ever let myself do that I wasn't good at. THE ONLY THING. I'm proud that I still did it.
Julie Pippert said…
B&P, okay, you've had a good example. How did they decide the criteria for "quit" or "stick with it?" How much came from you versus them, and how did it change as you grew older?

HBM, oh my STARS! I did the same thing with ballet, even kept dancing in college and even took classes (including jazz and tap!) as an adult and the best that can be said about me is I am somewhat graceful, in adagio at least, on occasion, and have good posture LOL. (Can't remember steps to save my life though LOL.)

I put a lot of heart into it.

I must be a masochist though because I often push myself to try things, even if I'm not good at it. And often I choose to persist in the things I don't do well. I think it is overcompensating for *not* wanting to do this. I don't know. Haven't unraveled it yet.

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